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Chinsura


Chinsura a small town in Hughli district of West Bengal, is situated on the west bank of the river Bhagirathi. It forms a part of Hughli-Chinsura Municipality constituted in 1865.

It is said that the area was thickly covered with Chinchira (cane-plant) after which the town was named Chuchura. The tiny 16th century village of Kulihanda in Arsha Pargana of the Sarkar satgaon later grew up to form two settlements - Dharampur and Kulihanda. Dharampur became famous for the temples of Dharmaraj (16th century) and Mahismardini. The area of Chinsura or Chuchura extends from Tulapatighat in Uttar Chandannagar to Dharampur and South of Bally More.

The dutch arrived in Hughli in 1632 after the Mughal expulsion of the portuguese, their rivals. They received farmans in 1638, 1650 and 1662 from the Mughal emperors allowing them trade rights at Chinsura. The Dutch Naval Commander, Van Der Broucke founded the factory at Chinsura in 1653 and became its first governor under the control of the Batavia Dutch Directorate.

For the next 57 years the Dutch flourished in trade and built the Chinsura town. They traded in opium, saltpetre, raw silk, silk goods, cotton yarn, cotton goods, rice, sugar, butter, vegetables etc procured mostly from the Patna, Maldah, kasimbazar, Mullick Kashim Hat and Hughli markets and also from their own cultivation. Within the factory and fort area the Dutch built handsome residential buildings, office quarters, warehouses, etc on the riverbanks and laid out beautiful parks and gardens. The Champenad garden attracted many foreign travellers. The civic amenities were commendable, with metalled roads, underground sewerage systems and potable water supply. The settlement was protected by Fort Gustavus founded in 1696. A governor and a council ran the administration. There were separate courts for natives and foreigners. The town had a chairman, a treasurer and some departments for collection of revenue, toll-tax, abwabs and for looking after the civic amenities. The Dutch maintained cordial relations with the local people and the neighbouring merchants and even married Bengali women.

At the time of the battle of palashi, both the nawab and the English were dissatisfied with the Dutch for their neutrality. Their increasing political power and prosperity in trade roused the envy of the British. The defeat of the Dutch at the battle of Biderra in November 1759 led to their submission to the English and by 1765 they finally accepted the ascendancy of the English in Bengal trade. The English took over the possession of Chinsura on 28 July 1795 and restored it to the Dutch on 20 September 1817. Henceforth, the Dutch devoted all their energies to commerce and trade, and did not look after the land, their chief source of revenue, though they collected abwabs and all kind of taxes. The Dutch employees became so corrupt that they usurped the trade profit, causing loss to their company. The King of Holland got frustrated and bartered off the town of Chinsura and a few other places for Sumatra Island and Fort Marblo on 7 May 1825. Thus the Dutch era in Bengal came to an end.

The English demolished Fort Gustavus and constructed a huge two-storied barrack on the site in 1829 for housing 1000 military personnel. The double-storied house of the Dutch Governor, Sichterman, nearby is now used as the residence of the Divisional Commissioner of Burdwan. The Chinsura maidan (Kuthir Math) was used as the English parade ground till 1871. Opposite to the Commissioner's residence stands the Old Dutch Church built by G. Vernet in 1767. The old cemetery on Gorastan Road was originally a Dutch cemetery.

There are some old localities at Chinsura such as Mogoltuli, Armenitola, Firingitola, Jugipara, Kazipara, Sonatuli (occupied by Swarnakars), Babuganj, Sahaganj, Kalupara, Kamarpara etc. The first three names are reminiscent of the settlements of the Mughals, armenians and Europeans, and some of the rest refer to the occupational groups residing in particular areas. The Dayamayee temple at Kharuabazar near the Netaji Subhas Road is nearly four hundred years old. A Dutch governor Mr. Brum made a present of two large brass drums to the deity Shandeswara. Kwaja Joseph Marger built the Armenian Church at Armenitola in 1697. Mrs. Sebastian Shaw founded the Roman Catholic Church in 1740. In 1801, haji muhammad mohsin built an Imambara at Mogoltuli. Nassaratullah Khan, cousin of Nawab Khan Jahan Khan erected a mosque in 1832. The Thakurbari of Chandrasekhar Sil was founded in 1897.

Akshay Chandra Sarkar, a prominent literary figure, and bhudev mukhopadhyay were born at Chinsura. bankimchandra chattopadhyay spent his early years at Chinsura. ramram basu, the scribe of William Carey, lived in Chinsura. The revolutionary leaders Jyotish Chandra Ghosh, Gourhari Som and Sagar Hazra hailed from Chinsura town. [Prafulla Chakrabarti]